Smart Switches Buyer’s Guide - firstenergyhome | Blog
92 views | March 23, 2020

Smart Switches
Complete Buyer’s Guide

In this article we will cover the core features that are common to smart lighting, the various types of smart bulbs found in the market today, as well as some things to consider before you buy.

Smart home devices are more popular than ever. Next year, analysts expect the market for smart home devices to reach $53 billion.1 Smart technology is continuously evolving, and homeowners are becoming more accustomed to connecting household devices to the internet.

It’s common to think smart home devices cost an arm and a leg. But that’s not entirely true because now there are inexpensive DIY smart home systems such as smart door locks, smart cameras, video doorbells, and other cost-friendly smart home products. And now that reputable names like Amazon and Google have gotten in on the action; prices are coming down.

Smart switches are a popular choice when creating a smart home because of their simplicity. Install the smart switch, connect to the wireless network and control it from the smartphone app. Experts predict the smart switch craze to see a compounded annual growth rate of 4.1% between 2021 and 2026.2

What’s the difference between a smart switch and a regular switch?

Smart switches have very little in common with traditional light switches. Smart switches offer remote control and automated functionality. Control the switch from a mobile device or create an automated schedule for anything wired to that switch.

How Does A Smart Switch Work?

It’s essential to understand the fundamentals of how the smart switch comes together. Smart light switches connect to the Wi-Fi network and allow control in two ways. Either from the switch on the wall or a mobile device.

But how does it work? It can be programmed to turn the lights on or off automatically. The switch communicates with the mobile device via a Wi-Fi network or device hub.

Smart Light Switches, Smart Plugs, and Smart Bulbs

Traditional home appliances and devices can either be replaced with smart devices or modified with smart switches and smart plugs.

A smart plug won’t allow all smart home devices to communicate, only those plugged into the smart plug outlet. So adding smart switches and smart plugs is a better fit for smart home control.

And for those who only want smart lighting, smart LED bulbs should make do. Smart bulbs can also be automated and controlled remotely.

Should I Purchase a Smart Light Switch or Smart Plug?

Smart wall switches, such as the Sengled Smart Light Switch or the Philips Hue Smart Dimmer Switch, are as convenient as using a standard light switch. Plus, smart switches can include features like remote control, automation, and scheduling.*

Smart light switch installation is identical to a traditional switch. But smart switches are an excellent means to energy-efficiency because of the mobile and automated control features.

Most smart light switches operate through Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, or ZigBee technology. But this depends on the product. Z-Wave and ZigBee enabled devices require a smart hub, which may or may not be included with the product.

If you want to automate light fixtures while keeping the standard wall-switch control, then in-wall smart switches are the right choice.

Smart plugs, such as the Philips Hue Indoor Smart Plug, may offer similar features as smart switches but with increased flexibility with controllable devices. And setup only takes a minute or two.

The user should take advantage of both devices’ scheduling features for complete functionality. Smart plugs rarely have the same toggle feature compared to smart switches. And smart plugs are usually better for automating and scheduling smaller home devices, like lamps.

What are Z-Wave and ZigBee?

All smart home devices utilize wireless communication, which is how they can send data to mobile devices or between one another. As a result, almost every smart switch or plug should have Z-Wave, ZigBee, Bluetooth, or a Wi-Fi connection.

These are how smart devices interconnect with other smart gadgets around the house. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connect directly to a phone – which means they’re good as stand-alone products.

Z-Wave and ZigBee are mesh networks. A mesh network transmits signals through a central hub. These smart devices don’t have to communicate directly with the hub because a mesh network allows every device in that network to work as a repeater - the ability to pass signals to a different device. Mesh networks cover long distances, and they work around obstacles. If two devices were to be out of reach, they could use a third device located in between.

How Are Z-Wave and ZigBee Different from Wi-Fi Or Bluetooth?

Are Z-Wave or ZigBee wireless protocols a better choice for smart home devices than either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth? Wi-Fi does consume more power than Z-Wave, ZigBee, and Bluetooth, but Wi-Fi has a more extensive wireless communication range than the other three protocols. 3

Bluetooth may do an excellent job of saving energy, but it has limited capabilities. A device using Bluetooth connectivity is limited to the number of devices it can connect.

Z-Wave and ZigBee both comprise decentralized mesh networks. By doing so, every device has a high probability of connecting with devices that are within range. On the other hand, Wi-Fi is a centralized network. Hence, it relies on a router to facilitate a network, and connecting more devices could lead to slower connectivity.

A mesh network is a more robust option and one of the main reasons security systems utilize these networks. Therefore, the more Z-Wave friendly devices in the house, the better the connection.

Must-Have Features in a Smart Light Switch

It’s crucial to find a smart switch or plug that is compatible with a Voice Assistant. For example, the Philips Hue Smart Dimmer Switch works with Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Apple HomeKit. These voice assistants enable homeowners to utilize the voice command feature to control the smart switch for complete convenience.

Another important feature of smart switches is the dimming feature. But, it’s necessary to buy dimmable light bulbs to take advantage of the features. Smart dimmer switches are energy-saving devices. The higher the LED and CFL bulbs’ quality, the better the features are. And it’s a good idea to have a smart light switch that includes the standard wall switch feature.

A valuable aspect of the smart switch is its ability to provide intelligent lighting functionality to any bulb it controls, whether they are LEDs or incandescents, halogens, CFLs, or fluorescents. This cost-saving benefit means the user will not have to replace existing bulbs with more expensive options.

Which Switch is The Best Choice?

The best smart switch or smart plug for each homeowner will come down to necessity. Users need to understand the features, functions, network options, and wireless protocols that best suit smart devices before making the purchase.

The good news is that smart switches and smart plugs are flexible smart home devices. Creating a customized smart home for exceeding comfort and convenience will take very little time and require research.

Please visit other articles within the FirstEnergy Home Learning Library if this content was useful.

*FirstEnergy Home’s review of this product is solely opinion. FirstEnergy Home did not receive compensation for the review. FirstEnergy Home, and any FirstEnergy affiliates, are not affiliated with the manufacturer of the product, nor is there any endorsement or sponsorship between the product manufacturer of the product and FirstEnergy Home or any of its affiliates.

© 2021 FirstEnergy Home

1Statista. Forecast market size of the global smart home market from 2016 to 2022. Retrieved from
3Semantic Scholar. Comparison of Zigbee, Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth Wireless Technologies Used in Home Automation. Retrieved from